How mobile, chat, notifications are changing the media industry

By Tom Corbett


Antwerp, Belgium, Belgium


Three big lessons stood out at the recent INMA Ideas Day on Mobile Innovations:

  1. You know 2016 really is the year of mobile when the giant in the room — Google — decides its time to prioritise mobile over desktop in its search index (some here at INMA have said that every year the past five years, but now it really is).

    Google told us it will be splitting its search index between mobile and desktop very soon (more about that here). This essentially means you will get better, more up-to-date search results when you do a Google search on your mobile than when you do that same search on your dekstop.
  2. People love chat.
  3. Notifications are key.

People love to interact with their media brands in a two-way conversation. We heard from local media brands in Austria (VOL.AT) and Germany (HNA) how they are interacting and engaging with readers through WhatsApp, Snapchat, and even Viber (24Sata in Croatia).

VOL.AT is engaging with audiences in many new ways.
VOL.AT is engaging with audiences in many new ways.

Local/regional media are at the heart of their local community. They (ought to) know what’s going on. News used to be a monologue: local media brand shouting at their fellow citizens. Now you have a two-way conversation with people asking, “How can I avoid the rush hour traffic tonight?” “What’s there to do in town today?”

Who’s better placed to answer their questions than the local media brand?

All four media brands (VOL.AT, Metro, HNA, and 24Sata) said engaging readers through WhatsApp or Viber (or any other mobile chat app for that matter) is hard work. It’s time-consuming to manually add thousands of mobile numbers on a phone! There are few tools out there (tip: someone can start a business) that automate adding mobile numbers to message groups or give you the possibility of answering questions on a PC.

But if you’re a local news brand, it’s still worth starting now so you’re ahead of the game, hoping helpful tools will be available soon. Whappodo in Germany is one; others will follow surely. Find out what the most used chat app is in your region and get on it.

Sanoma’s Nyt app is similar to other platforms, like WhatsApp.
Sanoma’s Nyt app is similar to other platforms, like WhatsApp.

Of course, if you’ve developed a mass following already on WhatsApp or Messenger and you’re like Sanoma Media, you could develop your own chat app and own the platform yourself. Sanoma’s Nyt app is modeled around UX that’s familiar from Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger, and other chat and conversation based apps. 

The user gets information in “message-sized” chunks and can reply to the editors with text, photo, or video. At the end of 2015, without publicising the app, it had reached an audience of 10,000 in its first year. Learn more here.

After Jussi Pullinen’s presentation, I wondered how long before news brands will add a chat-like function within their mobile news app? Seems a logical next step.

While at Google, we also learned the answer to the simple but very important question: What is considered “mobile” for Google?

The answer: Responsive, m-bot site and PWA (Progressive Web Apps or AMP) are all considered proper mobile Web pages. But if you have interstitials as ads on your mobile Web site? Forget it. Do you feel your mobile site needs a “view on desktop” link? Then you won’t be considered a mobile site by Google.

Carolina Munoz from B.Z. Digital (Berliner Zeitung) shared how B.Z. in Berlin is becoming the No. 1 place for Berliners to get up-to-the-minute news updates by launching its 24-hour news ticker (similar to what HNA is doing in Kassel). And best of all, the media company is making progress in monetising it, too. To re-phrase the title of Pit Gottschalk’s book: “The heart of a local media brand beats mobile.” 

We saw a glimpse of the (very near) future from various start-ups. Sorry, let me re-phrase that: that future is here already.

Start-up BigVu has created an app allowing journalists to create, edit, and publish video content.
Start-up BigVu has created an app allowing journalists to create, edit, and publish video content.

BigVu (pronounced “big view”), a start-up setup in March 2016, has developed a mobile app for “mojo journalists” to create, edit, and publish video’s all from their phone in an amazingly simple way. Founder Hervé Muyal shared the story of a French TV broadcaster (which owns several TV studios and camera equipment insured for millions) introduced BigVu in the newsroom and journalists preferring it to their old equipment!

Imagine those TV journalists throwing those big old chunky cameras into a forgotten corner and doing their jobs with just an iPhone (and OK, maybe an extra battery pack to keep the phone running). 

Leen Segers, founder of an equally young start-up (May 2016) called EEYOU, shared her Netflix-like platform for VR content. EEYOU will not produce VR content themselves: that’s where publishers come into play. But it aims to be the next Netflix for VR. With a focus on European VR content. 

Button showed us a very easy-to-implement and innovative way to monetise mobile. It’s m-commerce at it’s best. Button connects your mobile app to brands, earns you money, and generates loyalty. Instead of showing an ad for that new movie, add a button at the bottom of the film review. That button lets people buy tickets, from within your app, in a few clicks. If you don’t, someone else will. 

The INMA Ideas Day on Mobile Innovations couldn’t have been more “just-in-time” for INMA members, who gathered around the topic of mobile innovations and learned from 13 (!) case studies in just one day in Zurich. It was a fast-and-furious day. In comparison: our North American colleagues recently did an event in Chicago with 12 speakers spread across two days. America, you need to up your pace 😉.

We saw the future in Zurich, and the world is moving fast.

About Tom Corbett

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